Buying a house

When moving to a new house, having lawyers who can reduce the stress involved as much as possible is invaluable. We promise to do everything we can to make your move as smooth and as easy as it possibly can be.

We will provide a clear estimate of the costs and timeframes involved and explain the process as required.

It sounds obvious, but the first thing you need to do is find a property of the right size, in the right location and at the right price.

Though estate agents are still the first port of call for many people, it’s increasingly becoming the case that people are using online facilities to find their next property. Try checking out Rightmove and Zoopla for properties in your area.

By all means ask to be put on estate agent’s mailing lists but expect to be bombarded with calls. Another good source of information is the Land Registry.

The offer

Once you’ve found a property, you will need to make an offer to the estate agent handling the sale. It’s important to remember that the estate agent is acting for the seller of the property and not for you – their commission is dependent on a sale being completed so they will not necessarily act in your best interests.

If your offer is accepted, then the property will be sold subject to contract. However, until formal exchange of contracts takes place either party can decide not to proceed, usually without penalty.

If the estate agent asks you to put down a holding deposit, goodwill deposit or a reservation fee then you should talk to us before doing so. These sorts of deposit can be difficult to recover in the event of the purchase not proceeding and it is vital that steps are taken to protect your interests.

The survey

You should always consider having a detailed independent survey carried out on the property you’re buying. Don’t rely on the mortgage lender’s valuation – it’s not a thorough inspection (and is often a “drive-by” valuation) and therefore won’t reveal any potential issues with the property which a full Homebuyer’s Report will flag up.

We can recommend a surveyor to you if you wish or you can consult the website of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors for surveyors in your area.

Under English Law as it currently stands, a property is bought in its existing state and condition and it is unusual for the seller to be required to compensate you for things which you ought to have been aware of before buying it. This concept is often referred to as “caveat emptor”.  It’s therefore vital that you satisfy yourself as to the state and condition of the property before contracts are exchanged.

Before exchange of contracts

We will examine the draft contract supplied by the seller’s lawyers together with the title deeds to the property and a set of forms which the seller is required to complete relating to basic information about the property and the contents which are either included or excluded from the sale.

Depending on what those documents reveal, it may be necessary for us to ask further questions of the seller’s lawyers so that we have a full picture of the property and any matters which might affect your ownership or future use of it.

We will carry out searches on your behalf at:

In addition, we will carry out a Chancel Repair Search. We will also check the terms of your mortgage offer.

Once we have satisfactory replies to all our enquiries and search results, we will arrange to meet with you to go through all the documentation. It’s at this stage that we discuss with you matters such as possible completion dates and deposits. We will also discuss the title to the property and any covenants, restrictions or rights of way affecting it.

The details covered in the meeting will be confirmed in a written report which you can choose to receive by letter or email. At that point, in order to make the contract enforceable in English law, you are required to pay a deposit (traditionally, equivalent to 10% of the purchase price). However, we can usually arrange with the seller’s lawyer for a reduced deposit to be paid.

Exchange of contracts

This is the point at which the contract for your purchase becomes binding and, following the exchange, neither you nor the seller can withdraw from the transaction without incurring a financial penalty.

Once we have dealt with the deposit, are holding your signed documentation and have agreed a completion date with you and with the seller, the exchange of contracts is dealt with over the telephone by us and the seller’s lawyer.

If you are both buying and selling, then we will obviously ensure that the two transactions are dealt with simultaneously.

Before completion

Before your move, we will:

  • Arrange for your mortgage advance to be sent to us by your lender
  • Carry out the final searches

You will need to:

  • Inform the relevant utility suppliers of your change of address and moving date
  • Take your meter readings for your current property on the completion day

Before completion, you also need to be aware of the following:

  • Don’t make a booking for your removals until we have confirmed exchange of contracts to you – otherwise you may incur a cancellation fee if dates change
  • Try to book your removals for slightly later in the day – you will not be able to get access to your new home until the seller’s lawyer has received the completion money and, depending on the bank system, that can take a couple of hours
  • If you’re moving out of rented accommodation, then don’t give Notice to Quit until exchange of contracts has taken place

Completion

This is the date on which you usually move into the new property which will have been agreed prior to the exchange.

In some cases, it is possible to exchange contracts and complete on the same day, providing all necessary arrangements for removals, mortgage funds, and any other necessary payments have been dealt with well in advance. However, in most cases, exchange of contracts and completion will be a few days apart.

If you are buying a brand-new property, then you may find that the developer requires you to exchange contracts weeks or even months before the property is ready to be lived in.

We will give you plenty of notice of the amount of money we will require from you in order to complete your purchase.

You will need to let us have:

  • The purchase price of the property (less any deposit you’ve already paid)
  • Any other amount you’ve agreed to pay the seller for fixtures and fittings
  • Any amount due for Stamp Duty Land Tax
  • The Land Registry fee
  • Our fees

Either at or before exchange of contracts, we will send you a completion statement setting out the total amount due from you and breaking it down into the various headings above.

Once the completion money has been received by the seller’s lawyer, you will receive a call either from us or the estate agent to confirm that you can collect the keys to your new home.

We will then process the payment of the Stamp Land Tax Duty on your new home and register your ownership with the Land Registry. We will send your mortgage lender a copy of the title deeds and send the originals to you, unless you wish us to keep them in our strong room for you.

If you have signed up for our client login system, it will be possible for you to view a copy of the main title to your new home online.